Fic: Almost Crimes, 3/3 (Charlie/Draco, NC-17) for the community Author:magnus_leo Recipient: The Community Title: Almost Crimes Rating: NC-17 Pairing(s): Charlie/Draco, Charlie/OMC, Charlie/Fleur Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended. All characters engaging in sexual activity are 16 years or older. Summary: The war is over and Charlie is left languishing in Romania. Like every good veteran he's haunted by the things he's left behind, the people whose shapes are filled with the ruddy flesh of escapism. Just as the spiral reaches its end, Charlie stumbles on a half-familiar face from home. A story with too much vodka. Warnings: mild D/s, spanking, rimming, orgasm denial, power play, racial slurs, lots of swearing, heavy alcohol use, dark themes, the palest whiff of incest, self-pity. Word Count: 28,035 Author's Notes: I really hope you like this fic. I was really walking on thin ice with this one. For reference's sake, major inspiration came from Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union and Sondheim's Company. A million and a half thanks to T for guiding me through this one when I thought it would eat me whole. You are a very good muse, it must be said.
Charlie rang the doorbell.
It was an intolerably warm spring night, and his shirt sleeves were rolled up into a bunch. It was a black and white French sailor's shirt, round-necked, like Picasso's famous fashion. His jeans were rolled, like Huckleberry Finn, to the calf, and he had unlaced red and white Converse on his feet. He carried a huge box in his arms.
Fleur opened the door. She smiled. "A housewarming?"
Charlie nodded. "Is Bill home?"
"He will be," Fleur said. "Come in, mon beau."
Shell Cottage was still filled with cardboard boxes, plastic wrap, tissue paper, the detritus of their recent move. The house smelled of onions and chicken, and sawdust and paint.
Fleur led the way into the kitchen. She was in a floaty kind of summer dress, pale yellow and wonderfully low cut. Bare feet. Her small breasts shone with the pale freckles of sunshine and gardening. A large, lidded pot sat on the stove over a low-burning blue flame.
"Coq au vin," Fleur replied. "The only thing I know. Bill does most of the cooking." She touched the back of Charlie's neck, drew him in for a hug and a kiss at each cheek. And then a chaste peck on the lips. "What did you bring, Chuck?" The word, an American pronoun of great love, still sounded strange on her tongue after all these years, though was more pleasant for it.
Charlie put the box on the table. He lifted the flaps. Inside, arranged in a neat five-by-five grid, were twenty-five bottles of red wine. He removed one of the bottles. "I don't know what it's called but I'm assured it's good."
Fleur grabbed the bottle and read the label. "Clos Saint-Denis! Chuck, it is too much, much too much." She grinned and held the bottle to her chest like an infant. "Burgundy. I'm from Burgundy, you know."
"I know," Charlie said, exchanging grins. "Let's toast."
Fleur couldn't find her bottle opener, so she twisted the tip of her wand into the mouth of the bottle, disgorging the swollen cork and pouring them two glasses of blood-red wine. "Don't tell Bill," she said. "He hates when I use the wand to open bottles. He says it alters the taste of the wine."
They clinked glasses.
"To Shell Cottage," Charlie said.
"You are sweet," Fleur said. "Santé."
"Santé," Charlie agreed.
"So how do you like it?"
"It's – it is new," Fleur said of the new digs, waving her hand about the spacious kitchen. "I did not think I would like England, but here, in – how is it?"
"Cornwall," Charlie said.
"Yes, Cornwall. It is very much like France. Like Bretagne, Brittany." She drank deeply from her wine, and spilled some down her front. "Fuck!"
Charlie smiled. "Bill's rubbing off on you."
"Or you," she said, still cursing lightly, grabbing a kitchen towel to dab at her chest, the soft stretch of skin between her breasts. "You are both very foul of mouth." She dabbed at the blood stain that blossomed through the taffeta of her dress. "I must apologize, I am very jumpy, the wedding is so close."
"Two days," Charlie murmured.
"Yes, yes." She took Charlie's hand. "I am so glad you could come, Chuck. It means so much to Bill."
Fleur flushed, an unusual colour to her normally flawless skin. "And myself."
Charlie nodded, stared down into the depths of his wine. "I missed you."
"Romania is a long way from here," Fleur said. "We knew of this."
"I wasn't talking about – that." Charlie swallowed a great mouthful of wine, leaned back against the kitchen counter. "I just miss you."
The sound of a chimney engaging, the hurricane-breath of wind rushed into life as the Floo system spat Bill out of its green-fire and swirling magic. They heard him utter a string of familiar curses.
"Bill," Fleur called out. "We are in the kitchen."
Bill's heavy footsteps echoed through the quiet house, ever nearer, until he appeared, a red-haired apparition from the dark of Shell Cottage.
"Chuck," he said, face splitting into an earnest grin. "Fuck, Chuck." He swept forward and caught his brother in a furious, wanting hug. Bill's large hands tucked in at the back of Charlie's head, at the hollow between his shoulders. They laughed into each other's necks, and Bill kissed his brother once on the cheek, again at the corner of the mouth. "Fuck it's good to see you." He pulled away, though his hands still lingered, Bill watching Charlie with growing sweetness. "Fuck it's good to see you. Is that wine?"
"Burgundy," Fleur said, taking another glass out from their packed box and filling it with wine. She handed it to Bill and kissed him wetly on the lips. "He has come to give us a housewarming."
"And the wedding, right?" Bill asked. "My best man."
"Always," Charlie said, grinning and stuffing his hands in the front pockets of his jeans.
Bill grinned again. "Fuck. Fuuuuuck." He savoured the word, drawing it out several times its usual length. He curled it all the way around him in two or three big loops and cosied to its luxuriant shawl. "God, I can't believe it's only two days."
"Two days," Fleur repeated. "Have you seen your mother's house? It is very beautiful, all decorated."
Bill nodded. "We'll head over tomorrow." Then he smiled again. "But now we drink."
They sat on the porch under the large orbit of an electric light and the scattered planets of burning torches. The sea was loud and welcome, the rush of salty waves and sea breeze like a pale unguent to sooth their minds. They drank through four bottles of wine before Fleur remembered dinner. She served the warm and sticky stew in a bowl, succulent pieces of chicken swimming in a broth of onions, mushrooms, lardons, caramelised garlic, and wine-gravy. They ate with juice dripping down their chins, laughing, handing napkins around, sharing Fleur's cigarettes and basking in the brightness of alcohol.
"Tell me," Bill said, collecting the dishes and placing them on the back step, next to the door, "tell me about when you guys dated."
Charlie glanced at Fleur, his smile faltering, and she shared his glance.
"What would you like to know?" Fleur asked.
"Just – I dunno, what was it all like?" Bill sat back and refilled his wine. "Just tell me how you met. What it was like."
Charlie looked at Fleur, and then spoke: "Well, we met during the Triwizard Tournament. You knew that."
"Yeah, yeah," Bill said, "but what did you – think of each other?"
"Well, I saw her during the challenge. She was – God, just the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen." Charlie paused and smiled at the recollection. "I didn't really think much of it. I don't think I even met her. Then I came back for the second task and we –" Charlie blushed. "We met then. We talked."
"We made love," Fleur clarified.
Charlie blushed. "I dunno. It just kind of happened. It wasn't a conscious – decision. But she told me to come back for the third task and – well, I did."
"I thought," Fleur said, "I thought when I saw him, here is a boy. Here is an interesting boy. I don't know, but he was a very beautiful boy." She suppressed a smile, taking a long sip of wine. "He is still a very beautiful boy. I am thinking it was love at first sight."
"I came back to Hogwarts a bunch of times to see her. I shouldn't have. But, cause dad knew a bloke – you know, Greene, whatever his name was – I got free Portkeys. I think for a couple months I came to see her every weekend. First we just fucked, but we got to talking." Charlie paused to take a drink of wine. "And I just – I don't know. I fell in love," he finished in a small voice.
Fleur looked into her glass, not quite able to meet either her fiancée or his brother. "I think I did as well. When – when Cedric was killed –"
"We got drunk on brandy. We hid in the greenhouses and slept in there." He paused, looking slightly ashamed. "Poor fucking Harry. I just didn't know what to do, Fleur was so –"
"He was there for me," Fleur said with finality. "He is never here, but when you need Chuck, he is always there."
Bill nodded. "And then?"
"And then I went back, and had to stay back," Charlie said. "We were starting a new breeding operation, in Romania. We had a couple of Longhorns we wanted to mix with our old Opaleye. I needed to go back. That was May."
"And then summer," Fleur said, taking a deep sigh. "And then I take a job at Gringotts for my English, and to wait for Charlie to come back from Romania."
"And then –" Charlie paused.
"And then," Bill said quietly, with noticeable shame. "I met her."
There was a heavy silence, punctuated only by their soft tasting of wine, the gurgle from the bottle as they refilled their glasses.
"How is my cousin?" Fleur asked suddenly.
"Théo," Fleur said. "He is training in Romania, I thought."
"Oh, yeah," Charlie said. "I've flown with him before. He's a good kid."
Fleur smiled. "He is settling well?"
Charlie shrugged. "Sure. It's a tight group, we get along."
"You will look out for him, yes?" Fleur asked. "Mon petit Théo?"
"Course," Charlie said.
"You are sweet," Fleur replied, cupping his cheek. "So sweet, my Chuck."
They finished another bottle of wine before stumbling inside (Bill tripping over their dirty dishes) and upstairs. It was only when Charlie was saying goodnight that Fleur realised she hadn't made up the guest bedroom, the boxes still tightly packed and sealed with shiny tape.
"It's all right," Bill slurred, interrupting Fleur's flow of curse words. "He can sleep with us."
Fleur laughed her bright, fluttering, girlish laugh and agreed.
The master bedroom was scarcely better made. The bed was dressed in sheets, blankets, and an avalanche of pillows, but the room was a blank canvas, the corners dusted with cobwebs of closed boxes. Bill stumbled over to the oriel window and lifted the sash, pushed open the windows to the great rush of salt and sea air. Backlit by the moon, Bill pulled off his open-neck cotton shirt and then his jeans. He stood in his plaid boxers and yawned, his skin made ghoulish blue. Fleur beckoned Charlie to unbutton the clasp at the back of her dress. It parted under his fingers, the loose front falling from her chest like the thinnest sheet of artisan's gold leaf. Her breasts were as he remembered them, small and perfect, the tip of her nipple like a rosy bead. She let the dress fall to the floor and stepped out of it, straightening her pink boyshorts over her shapely arse.
She moved in to kiss Bill. Charlie avoided watching, turned and pulled off his striped Picasso shirt, loosed the belt buckle and top button of his –
Hands interrupted. Fleur's hands took over the job, loosening the copper clasp of Charlie's jeans and peeling open the zipper. She tucked her fingers into the waistband of his jeans and helped him tug them off, stripping him down to his jockeys, his pure white briefs concealing a not-insignificant erection.
Charlie glanced up, at once shocked and darkly pleased. Bill gave him an easy smile and shrug (swaying on the spot) as if washing his hands of Fleur's tease, the perpetual tease of her Veela roots and small sun-freckled breasts.
Bill slid around Fleur, tracing her hips with his hand, and sat on the bed, leaned back on his hands and tossed his head back. He watched Fleur's slow progress, her inevitable draw to Charlie like some undeniable gravity.
"Chuck," she said, leaning in to press a lingering kiss, sour with wine, on his lips. "My love – my first love, my great love – my great love, my Valentino – my funny valentino," she murmured, the last of her words coalescing into the tune of the song. "Chuck," she said again, and kissed him deeper, trapping his hand and guiding it to her breast, to cup it, down her smooth stomach, the slight curve of her belly, trusting his fingers down the front of her knickers and into the short web of her pubic hair, the wet, warm cleft of her cunt.
"Fleur," he breathed, acutely aware of Bill's glance, his hard glance bearing down at them from the bed.
"It's okay," she breathed. "It's okay."
She kissed him with a driving force, pushing him back ever gently against the bed, his knees hit Bill – the backs of his knees folded on the edge of the mattress and he found himself sitting in Bill's lap. Hands wrapped around Charlie's waist, not a bear hug, not a grappling restriction or dubious entrapment, but a warm hug, a comforting embrace.
Bill kissed the side of Charlie's neck. "It's okay, Chuck."
Somehow Chuck let himself get swept away in the words, the awful comforting words of familiar voices as Fleur knelt before the brothers, and with Bill's help stripped Charlie's briefs from his hips, rolling them down the milk-pale skin and the hard-press of his cock.
She sucked, or used her hands, or did something fucking good, Charlie couldn't be sure as his eyes were tight closed. He could hear Bill's breath warm on his ear, could taste the wine still heavy on his lips. Bill kissed his neck and Charlie could hear the slow suck of Fleur's lips and tongue, could feel the warmth of Bill's hands wrapped along the round of his ribs.
Fleur stepped away, and Charlie opened his eyes. He was so hard, so embarrassed, and he stuttered to stand, off of Bill's warm body and the eventuality of where this would lead (the bed, Bill's mouth, Fleur's cunt, their hands linked, he could picture it a thousand different ways in a thousand different angled hieroglyphics.)
"Charlie," Fleur said.
"Chuck," Bill repeated, kissing the back of Charlie's head, touching a hand to his brother's bare hip. "Stay with us."
Charlie took a hesitant step away. He looked between them. The fear was ripe in his eyes, and Fleur was fast to identify it, the fight or flight that began pumping through his veins like a bad drug.
"It's okay, Charlie," she said calmly. "We love you."
"No," Charlie said.
"Bill and I –"
"Bill and you?" Charlie said, appealing to Fleur. "I love you."
"I love Bill," she said. "And – you. We want you here. Please." Her words were the palest horse whispers, appeasing her startled colt, coaxing him out of his rigid paranoia.
Charlie shook his head. It was a clutter of wine and broken promises, his admiration of Bill mixing with the grim reality of Fleur's abandonment. It sucked. "No."
"No?" Bill asked, sounding somehow hurt.
"No," Charlie said again. "Fuck you – fuck, this is all mind games. It's always mind games."
Fleur's eyes opened wider, softened. "No – no, we simply – we need you, Charlie. You are still my life."
"Then why marry Bill?" Charlie choked. It was like a strong nausea, building on itself, a snowball rolling down a hill just picking up weight until it was all Charlie could think, all he could say. "This is wrong –"
"Chuck, calm down," Bill said, flicking on the bedside lamp and putting a hand on Charlie's shoulder. "I know you love her. I know you love me. We can work this out somehow, I want you two to work."
"And are we gonna fuck?" Charlie asked, wheeling around to him, slapping the hand from his shoulder.
"No – no," Bill said. "Of course not. But I don't mind seeing you happy. I want to see you happy." Bill touched Charlie's hair, his cheek. "And if that means – and if that means you and Fleur find love together, that's okay. That's okay. You're my brother," he said quietly. "That's all I want."
"You're sick. You're sick to have her and throw it away," Charlie spat. "I wouldn't do that to anyone. Not her, not you. You're sick." He didn't mean it, he didn't know what he meant to be honest, but it was all he could do to answer the questions that rose in his chest like heavy bubbles of champagne. "You're such a – honestly, sharing? You fucking stole her," Charlie said, grabbing his briefs and pulling them on. "I'm your brother – you fucking stole her," he said again, pulling on his Picasso shirt.
"Charlie, he didn't steal, I love him – I love you both," she said. "Romania was so far away."
"And you'd share him?" Charlie asked, turning on Fleur. "You'd share your husband."
"Share?" Fleur asked, sounding genuinely surprised. "He is already yours. He has been for a long time, Charlie."
Charlie didn't want to listen. He pulled on his jeans. His Converse were downstairs. He turned on Bill and Fleur, the both of them still standing together, mostly naked and back lit by the bedside lamp. They had a pleading, appeasing look in their eyes, a slow shock at how this easy love had gone so quickly wrong.
Charlie turned without saying anything else. He never did find his Converse sneakers, lost somewhere on the outside patio. He squinted his eyes tight, gripped his wand, and Apparated to the Burrow, landing just outside its sphere of magic protection. He was drunk, and it was three in the morning, so he tossed rocks at Ron's bedroom window until his brother poked his head out, seven stories away.
"Let me in," Charlie yelled.
Ron was dressed only in boxers, plaid boxers Charlie knew once belonged to Bill. He was pale and worried, and Charlie grabbed him for a tight hug. "Sorry, I'm smashed."
"It's okay," Ron said, patting Charlie's back softly.
"I think I'm crying."
"It's okay," Ron said again, grasping Charlie's hand for a moment. "Come on. Bill's room is empty, he's still at their new house."
"Yeah," Charlie said. "Thanks."
"So I went to their wedding two days later," Charlie told Draco, reaching for his wand to reheat their tepid bathwater, stirring it lazily. He examined his pruned fingers, brushed them through the damp tangle of red hair. "We didn't talk. Fleur tried again, but I told her no. I used a few more swear words, but no." Charlie took a long draught from his wine. "I left for Romania the next day. I haven't been home since." He lowered his eyes, his red puffy eyes from the steam and the story, and gave Draco a slight smile, a simple connection. "It's been a year and a half."
Draco nodded, swallowed, trying to take it all in. "Fuck."
"Fuck," Charlie agreed. "But that's why I can't go home."
"You could, though," Draco said.
"And what, get caught in their fantasies again?"
"Not necessarily," Draco said, lighting a new Dunhill. "But maybe. What's wrong with that?"
"Is it?" Draco asked.
Charlie shrugged. "I guess not."
Draco rolled his eyes. "You get off on it, don't you?"
"Get off on what?" Charlie asked tightly.
"Get off on denying yourself happiness."
Charlie pinched the bridge of his nose, like the frustration of dealing with a problem child. "No. I guess. Yes." He looked up. "But what they did to me. I hate them, I fucking hate them."
"And you love them," Draco drawled, almost bored.
"Yeah. And hate them." Charlie's expression was strange, like he had stumbled on some great universal truth. "I hate my family." He smiled, slightly drunk. "Draco, I hate my family," Charlie repeated, revelling in the sound of it on his tongue. "That's it."
"It's a strange thing to realise," Draco said quietly. "More wine?"
"Always," Charlie said. He watched as Draco got out of the bath, his slim figure of cream and polished marble, and waited almost with baited breath until Draco returned with a new bottle of liniment to ply their aching minds.
"We'll go tomorrow," Charlie said, dark red wine spilling from his mouth as he lowered the bottle. It spread in the bathwater like drops of blood. He passed the bottle to Draco.
"We'll go where?"
Charlie shrugged. "To the mausoleum. The place you were looking for."
"Oh." Draco shook his head tightly. "Yeah, fine."
Charlie got out of the bath. He was half-hard, and a film of bubbles clouded his skin like a milky froth. He towelled off lazily, scratched his arse, and behind his right ear. He took Draco's hand to awkwardly help him out of the bath and on the slippery tiles, rolling a cotton robe around Draco's shoulders and digging his thumbs into the skin of his collarbone, rolling them about in a rough charley horse. Charlie towelled Draco's hair carefully, a shaggy mop of gold that Draco swept back with a hand, his expression irritated and questioning.
They fell into their bed. The curtains were drawn, it was only six o'clock at night, but they slept, their bodies and towels soaking the mattress, their skin all red and clammy and smelling of soap.
They woke near midnight. The bed was damp, the comforters heavy with bathwater. Draco was a kid. Falling asleep with wet hair had messed it all up, a radius of soft tangles Charlie toyed with impatient hands. He pushed Draco's gold mop into an imitation of a Mohican. He pushed it all back like a 50s pompadour, his sharp features putting him suddenly in mind of a blond James Dean. Draco tolerated this play with mild disinterest bordering on irritation, swatting once or twice at Charlie's hard hands, warning him off for fucking with his style.
Draco found a plate of oysters, lukewarm, and he ate them with lemon. He offered one to Charlie, but shellfish made him sick. Charlie wandered naked into the bathroom and found their bottle of wine. He sat in a chair and watched Draco eat the oysters, suck them from their blue-pearl shells. He jerked off lazily with one hand, smoked a cigarette with the other, was careful not to confuse which hand did what.
Draco got up from the bed. He put the plate of empty half-shells on top of the TV and took Charlie's indolently hard cock and shaped it with a few confident strokes. He shuffled forward, his pale thighs straddling Charlie's hips, and lowered himself, willingly impaling himself on Charlie's heat. The feeling of being fulfilled was not pleasant. It had the same awkward weight of a needle under the skin, a feeling of something that shouldn't be there.
Draco leaned forward and pressed a lazy, oyster-raw kiss to Charlie's lips. He kissed Charlie's cheek, his eyelids, a bored progression to his neck, his jawline, lips burning against the rough brush of a two-day's growth of stubble.
Draco's back was itchy, from the wet cotton of their bed, and he leaned forward, his chest all against Charlie's, imploring him to scratch. Charlie did, reaching around to run his half-bitten nails down Draco's back, brightly aware of Draco's cock rubbing fitfully between the slick inch of their chests.
Draco chewed, without softness, a spot of skin along Charlie's neck, worried it raw and painful, and he came, his cock tucked between their stomachs, pale semen smelling of chlorine and something oddly floral, lily-of-the-valley. It was a skewed story of Mary Poppins, the spoonful of semen tasting of everything unexpected, different for each boy, each orgasm.
Charlie told Draco this thought, about the spoonful of sugar. Draco laughed, lifted a liquid thread of his come and pushed his finger between Charlie's lips.
They couldn't sleep in their wet, heavy bed. They didn't think of using magic. Charlie spread a comforter, dry from the closet, on the ground and tossed a few pillows on it. They slept there, under a thin sheet, on the hard hotel floor.
They sat on a stone wall. It had stopped snowing, but the wind had picked up, piling all the fresh snow into curling drifts like frozen white-capped waves. Charlie wore a parka, bought for him on Draco's plastic muggle magic, chestnut brown with a fur collar the colour of tobacco stains. He fiddled with the toggles at his sleeve, pulling them taut and loose with his winter-dry hands. His jeans were stiff with frost.
Draco accepted Charlie's hand around his black wool jacket, double-breasted to his throat. Sitting on the edge of the wall, he kicked his black Effingham boots together, knocking slush and ice, twitching them back and forth like an infant in a high chair. In his hands he held the dimly-glowing copper urn and the ashes of his father.
The door of the mausoleum, a polished copper gone green with age was an intricate, delicate panel, a smaller version of Rodin's Gates of Hell. They stared at it, from their perch on the wall, watching it as if repelled by a self-same magnet. The sculpted designs were of angels, clenched Judaic faces with great pigeon wings. In his boredom, Charlie tried to identify the fifty seraphs. Only Michael stood out, with his flaming sword frozen in copper. Two lines, one in Romanian and one in Latin threaded above the doorframe, almost illegible. And above it, in a pale bit of stone scrollwork, were the black iron bars of the family name: MALLEFESCU.
"Mallefescu," Charlie murmured.
"Escu," Draco said quietly, "means 'son of.' Like Johnson in English."
"Son of –"
"Mallef," Draco said. "Mallef Dragomir. My great, great," he paused, counting on fingers, "great, great great grandfather."
"When they moved to England, during the revolution of eighteen – uh, eighteen fifty or something. They needed a Western name."
"They settled in France first. Lyon. It eventually became Malfoy. It means bad faith," Draco said. "Don't you love descriptive names? Like Weasley."
It was a sign of respect for the elegant Mallefescu tomb and the ashes of Lucius Malfoy that Charlie didn't swipe Draco upside the head. "So, you're Romanian." Charlie paused, and then smiled. "Are you seriously from fucking Transylvania?"
"Wallachia. Well, what was Wallachia," Draco said, somewhere between regret and pride. "Hence the revolution. And we're not Romanian, we're English. I don't fucking care about fucking Romania."
"So why are we here?"
Draco sighed, not wistfully but irritated to have to recall this bitter mission. "Because my father mentioned wanting to be buried with his family. They're all here. His father, his father's father." Draco waved to the tomb. "All their ashes organised in neat little rows of copper bottles. The apothecary of fucking Mallefescu." The name sounded strange and bitter on Draco's tongue, a foreign word he found no connection to. "And here goes another one." He lifted the copper pot that held his father's ashes.
"So put him in," Charlie said.
"I need to dwell," Draco said tightly. "People need to dwell before doing something so monumentally symbolic as burying their domineering father, don't they? In movies?"
"You're conflating a lot," Charlie replied. "He's already dead."
Draco looked at Charlie curiously, as if weighing his words on the scale of his conscience. "Yeah."
"So put him down," Charlie said, "and let's get out of here, it's bloody freezing."
Draco stood up and moved to the green-copper gates. He held his wand, a bleached hawthorn spike, and shoved it into a nook in the sculpture, a perfectly round keyhole that accepted his magic easily. The doors split, crumbled, vanished all together. Torches lit inside, illuminating the pale stone of the small mausoleum. It had the look of a prehistoric library, careful shelves of stone labelled with bronze plaques arranged in line under identical copper urns, each glowing with that same bizarre inner-light, like the liquid pulse of a dying star. Maybe it worked like the portraits at Hogwarts, each death inspiring, by magic, the automatic creation of a systematic legacy; along the nearest shelf was a plaque and an empty spot, a spot that seemed to ache for the dying glow of the urn. Even from a distance Charlie knew that the plaque read LUCIUS BALDRIC MALFOY.
Draco put the urn on the shelf, turned quickly and walked away. He didn't dwell, didn't indulge in the obvious symbolism of hesitation, or the heavy-hearted goodbyes, or the regret of disappointment. Draco sat next to Charlie, wiping his red eyes and just daring him to say something about it.
The doors rematerialized, phasing back into their copper shape, sealing the newly-glowing urn behind their oxidized shields. They settled with a great crunch, like the stone walls of ancient pyramids in an old adventure film.
Charlie took Draco's hand, pressed it to his warm cheek, kissed Draco's white knuckles. "Good."
"Okay, let's go now," Draco said, sniffing slightly, unable to tear his eyes away from the squat stone mausoleum that held the dirt of a dozen generations of Malfoys, of Mallefescus, of maladroits and malaparts, maleficent maladjusted malcontents.
"'I –" Charlie hesitated, kept a tighter hold on Draco's cold hand. "Fuck."
Draco closed his eyes, a very slow wince. "What?" he asked, begging the inevitable frustration.
Charlie sighed with irritation. "You know. Fuck." He fumbled in his pockets for a cigarette, catching it between his teeth and lighting it. "I think I'm in love with you."
"Christ," Draco hissed. "For fuck's sake."
"I know," Charlie said sharply. "It's not like I was planning on it."
"Fuck." Draco's shoulders sagged. "Why? Why would you do something so fucking stupid?"
"I don't know," Charlie spat. "I hate you."
Draco let go of Charlie's hands, wiped it theatrically on his trousers. "Honestly. Gryffindors. You'd fall in love with a dildo if it fucked you right."
Charlie shrugged. "I don't know what you did. You've been utterly repulsive. And yet –"
"And yet." Draco shook his head. "Well if you expect me to say it back, you're dreaming."
"So, what now?" Charlie asked.
"We go into town and get a coffee and some drinks." Draco nodded, appreciating his own plan. "I need some drinks."
"And then we fuck and have a bath and watch some TV and pretend you never said that."
Charlie nodded. "All right."
They forgot the coffee. They went straight home, to the Excelsior on Stefan cel Mare, to the lobby of Draco's hotel all filled with gaudy gold and pearl and the decadence that was forgotten in their cold-food and hermit existence. They parted there; Charlie to get some cigarettes and vodka, Draco to go have a bath. They kissed, sharply, then long on the lips, ignoring the sharp looks of ignorant tourists and respectable Romanians.
The streets were still all full of slush. The storefronts were covered in cheap Christmas decorations and the on-and-off flickering of fairy lights. Across the street from the cream-bricked Excelsior was a drug store. Charlie bought two packs of red, English-crested St. George cigarettes, and a forty ounce bottle of cheap vodka. He paid with Draco's money, and before the transaction was finished had already slipped open the plastic package and bit into the filter of a cigarette.
He smoked that cigarette right up until Draco's door, ol' number 707. He dropped the cigarette on the floor, that nice paisley carpet of red and gold, and stomped it out. The door was open and he let himself in.
"In the bath," Draco's disembodied voice called.
Charlie took off his coat and hung it on the back of a chair, the chair they had fucked in only two days before.
Draco was in the bath. The water was milky, white and half-opaque with bath soaps and crystals and salts. The room was full of steam, a steam that billowed like great curtains of heat as he opened the door.
Charlie pulled off his shirt, closed the door, and sat on the edge of the bath, behind Draco's reclined head. He set the plastic bag of his groceries on the tile, pulled out the already open carton of fags and the bottle of vodka. The screw top made a series of clicks as he broke the seal. He lit a cigarette and drank from the bottle of vodka, raw swill of it making him choke on his breath.
"You were gone for a while," Draco said, his hair slick back with wet and his eyes puffy red and closed. "I thought you had run."
"Nah," Charlie said, tagging another swig from the vodka, pairing it like a sommelier with the dusty, dirty smoke of his cigarette.
"Give me some."
Charlie handed both vodka and cigarette to Draco. Draco opened his eyes and settled them both in his hands, taking a thoughtful pull on the cigarette, and then another from the vodka. He let go of the liquor in the tub, and the bottle bobbed upright in the bathwater like a cork, like a message-in-a-bottle until Draco deigned to pick it up again and sample the spirits.
"So what'll we do for Christmas?" Draco asked. He glanced at an invisible watch. "It's already the twenty-third."
Charlie yawned. "Drink, smoke, fuck."
"Ah yes," Draco said. "Wanna jerk me off?"
"You're in the bath," Charlie said.
"Okay," Charlie said, accepting the cigarette back between his fingers and smoking it stiffly.
"Listen," Draco said. "I have something to say."
"So say it," Charlie said, stroking gently the wet, slick locks of Draco's hair. "I'm game."
"You're a cunt," Draco said.
Draco growled, low and wet. "But." Draco paused. "Off the record." He opened his eyes to glance once at Charlie, his eyes all red from the electric shock of tobacco and hot water. "I fucking love you, you fucking cheap ginger fucking cunt."
"Cheers," Charlie said placidly.
Draco got out of the bath. His body was as Charlie remembered it, as Charlie had described it in his mind on those nights he couldn't sleep, a drunken combination of marble, muscle, come, sex, cock, blond hair, the smell of citrus cologne and bright deodorant, the acrid tang of magic.
Draco let Charlie wrap a towel around his waist, accepted the kiss that Charlie left paint-chipped near the corner of Draco's mouth. He submitted one of his own, a rough bite that sucked the blood from Charlie's lips and left them all bright red.
They sat together on the end of their bed, smoking and passing the forty of vodka between them. Draco could tell Charlie was on his way to true intoxication, not the casual daze he occupied with measured shots of slivovitz through the day, not the self-medicated stupor through which he saw the world, but the genuine wanton drunkenness that sometimes possessed them during their darker moments.
"Hurt me," Draco said, his words cut off with the aristocratic tongue that had been born with. "Just, hurt me a lot, okay?"
Charlie didn't bother sorting through the dense psychology that no doubt informed Draco's want, the need of direction in the absence of his father, the want of a command in this world so far from home. "Lie on your stomach," was all Charlie said. "Take off the towel."
Draco complied. Charlie watched him. He felt he had used enough metaphors of marble and silk to describe Draco's skin, he felt that the superficial prettiness was somehow irrelevant now that they were together like this – like this, all cold and distant, like this with the worst of Draco held in Charlie's hand like a dying sparrow. Facing the waiting brutality, Charlie could only see Draco in half-formed dream shapes: Michelangelo's fragile Crouching Boy, a white orchid weeping a single drop of milky sap, a Parisian confectionary of powdered sugar, Rabbi Judah Loew's golem made of fresh cream-coloured Prague clay.
The strike came hard and unexpected, for the both of them. Charlie struck Draco's arse with an unnerving force, the imprint of his hand left in to the broken vessels under Draco's skin. Charlie watched, waited for any sign of recognition for the cruel blow, but Draco merely snuggled deeper into the covers of his bed, his no doubt hard cock digging with pleasure into the cold folds of fabric.
The slaps came with fierce consistency. One every two and half-seconds, the strike of a hand on the palest clay of skin, imprinting themselves on Draco's body like a many-layered tattoo, Charlie's swift imprint echoed a hundred times in waves of red, a red the colour of a maiden's blushing cheeks, of a whore's rosy make-up.
Charlie paused when he caused real pain, when the little burst capillaries became a growing bruise, as the blood seeped between the skin and grew sweet and purple with pain.
"Don't stop," Draco grunted. Charlie caught a glimpse at the boy, was shocked to find hard tears seeping from the corners of his eyes, refractory whimpers held behind his blood-red lips with the dedication of a self-immolating Bodhisattva.
The next blow was harder than the rest, and Draco finally cried out in pain.
"This is sick," Charlie said quietly, rubbing a soft hand over Draco's arse like some Biblical ointment, regretting those blows that glowed with such bright blood.
"Lots of stuff is," Draco said. "Lots of good stuff is." He twisted to look around at Charlie, the tracks of his tears growing dry with hard pleasure.
The slaps grew in intensity until Draco's arse was mapped in a palette of falu red, red ochre, bloody iron (III) oxide. The cries and groans were intensely shameful for Charlie, and intensely sexual, as rough and raw as a blowjob, enough that it got him hard under his clothes, his winter-frost jeans and rough cotton boxer shorts.
Charlie stopped, finally, when Draco's grunts were coloured with genuine grief, no longer just the moans and groans of his redolent spanking. Charlie touched a hand to the small of Draco's back and felt his sobs, his deep sobs like the heavy bass of a loud song played in another room, the vibrations of it resonating into the hollow of his chest.
Draco cried and Charlie held him, held him though he felt dishonest. Dishonest because he had struck the blows, the catalyst for this breakdown, and dishonest because he felt glad that Lucius Malfoy was stuck forever in the stone tomb of his forefathers, under that shamefully foreign name of Mallefescu. The joy and the shame, as always, walked hand in hand, and as Draco cried so too did Charlie, and he laughed, and cried, and he felt everything and nothing all at once.
But fuck. They cried until it hurt. They kept crying because none of it was cathartic, it just fucking hurt.
Their sex that night was extraneous. It amounted to nothing more than mutual masturbation in the dim light of the moon, frantic hands working known patterns on the other's body. They came together, nearly in unison, like Chinese fireworks set off in time to some kind of music.
They rested together, gods on the seventh day. They flicked on the wireless. It was Miles Davis playing Porgy and Bess, unknown to them and only revealed halfway through the broadcast when the Romanian host let slip those key words of understanding. Somehow the vodka found its way into their relaxed, languishing arms, and they drank the liquor, their Christmas spirits stinging lips raw with gasoline.
"Well, certainly in a direction," Draco replied. "But that's not what I'm worried about."
"Okay, what are you worried about?" Charlie asked, touching his freckled hands to Draco's slim side, playing his fingers along all the nooks and crannies of his bones.
"Name a play Edward Albee wrote."
"Edward Albee?" Charlie asked. "Uh. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
"Okay, good," Draco said. Charlie couldn't quite follow, and said as much. "Okay, now name another play he wrote."
Charlie considered him for a moment. "Uh."
"Name another play Albee wrote."
Charlie shrugged. "I don't know."
"Exactly," Draco replied.
"I don't follow."
Draco sighed, more out of irritation than anything. "Okay, name a play by Thornton Wilder."
Charlie shrugged. "Our Town, I guess."
"All right. And another?"
Charlie was silent. "Fuck knows."
"Get what I mean?"
"Not really, to be honest," Charlie said, running his hand down to the flat of Draco's stomach, digging his nails into the dense hair that fuzzed below his belly button.
"Hasn't the thought of a magnum opus ever occurred to you?" Draco asked. "The one work anyone is known for?"
"What if you're my magnum opus. What if it doesn't get better than this?"
Charlie shrugged his familiar shrug. "So what if it doesn't?"
"I can't live thinking that this is our peak, stuck in some shithole in Romania and – and just, stuck. I can't live just hiding with you." Draco sighed heavily. "Come home with me."
"Come back to England with me. Change the acts. Change the scenery. Come back to England."
Charlie winced, dug his forefinger and thumb into the bridge of his nose. "You have no idea what you're asking from me."
"I do, actually," Draco said.
"Go back to England?"
"That's the idea," Draco said.
"I don't know."
After the coming and the talk of theatre and the fumbling hands, they slept. Draco favoured his stomach, his arse still sore. Charlie liked to play his fingers over the brutalised skin, liked to hear all of Draco's machinations – whimpers, whispers, gasps, grunts, half-snores of disturbed sleep. Sometime near six, near sun-up, they finally fell into deep, silent, heavy dreams.
They went out for breakfast. It was three o'clock in the afternoon but they called it breakfast. There was a cafe not far from the Excelsior, a small white-washed, plastic-tabled breakfast nook that served cheap coffee and slivovitz, runny eggs and burnt toast. Compared to the platters of oysters, quail eggs, celery salt, Montrachet, white truffle oil, leek soup, and partridge breast, a sloppy English breakfast was almost laughable. But Draco ordered one, now far too used to Charlie's ascetic lack of nutrition, and dug into it as if it were caviar and pearls.
Charlie drank his coffee black. He watched, as usual, Draco eat with a smile. After a moment, when the soft-boiled eggs had been demolished, soaked up with corners of toast, Charlie put his coffee down. "Can I?"
"Can you what?" Draco asked, wiping the corner of his mouth with a napkin. Charlie gestured to the last half-piece of toast, neat isosceles triangle of browned bread, buttered heavily and growing cold. Draco narrowed his eyes. "By all means."
Charlie picked it up. He ate it. He nibbled at the corners, dipped it in his coffee, ate the whole piece in under a minute. Draco just watched.
"Good?" Draco asked, slightly wary.
"Sure," Charlie said. "It's toast."
Draco shook his head. "When's the last time you ate?"
"I dunno," Charlie said, off-hand. "It's just toast."
"Okay," Draco said. "Want some eggs?"
Draco ordered another full English breakfast, and together they ate. Draco hated cooked tomatoes, so Charlie ate that, and Charlie hated Heinz beans, so Draco ate those. They had more coffee. They were mostly silent. Charlie ate the rest of the toast.
"So I thought about your offer," Charlie said.
"Going back to England," Charlie replied. "Going back home."
"Oh." Draco righted the neck of his black Oxford cotton shirt. His hands left buttery thumbprints along the starched collar. "And?"
"And – well, okay. I will. We'll get a flat or something. I'm cool with that," Charlie said.
Draco nodded. His eyes suddenly grew dim and dark, troubled by Prospero's mystic musings. He put his fork down on the plate, piercing the golden yellow yolk of an egg, sunny-side up. "And your family?"
"You know," Charlie said. "I told you. I hate them."
"Okay." Draco swallowed deeply, took a few steadying breaths as if steeling himself against something, the unsteady teetering before leaping in a cold lake, all gunmetal grey. "There's just one thing first."
"Yeah?" Charlie asked, signalling a waitress for more coffee. "What?"
"I came here to find you," Draco said.
"I know," Charlie confirmed.
"For a reason."
Charlie blinked slowly, raised an eyebrow slightly as if to say, go on.
"I needed." He paused. "You were the only fucking Weasley I hadn't somehow – somehow fucked over, you know." Draco ran a hand through his sleep-mussed hair. "I needed to find you."
"Okay. So you did."
"So I did," Draco said. "You know. The Battle of Hogwarts."
"Yeah," Charlie confirmed again, his voice wavering somewhat, a curious question about where exactly this line of questioning was going.
"Your brother. George or whatever. Was killed by Rookwood, using that fucking exploding spell."
Charlie's eyes tightened, his whole body seemed to go as rigid as a puppet whose strings were suddenly drawn taut. "Yes. So."
"So." Draco lowered his eyes, stared into his coffee, his face growing all dark and shameful with honey. "So. It wasn't Rookwood who used that spell." Draco stuttered. "Well. No, it was. Rookwood used that spell. But that wasn't what killed him."
"What are you saying?" Charlie said, a piece of toast going cold in his poised hand.
"The spell that killed him. Was the Avada Kedavra." Draco nearly laughed, laughed at the absurd name and the absurd consequences it made. What a puerile spellname, for such a hideous curse. "My Avada Kedavra."
They were silent for a long time. A very long time indeed. Draco stared into his coffee, an oil slick with all the colours of a rainbow doing fingerprint swirls along the surface, a fragment of something or other (flake, crumb, grain) rippling the surface tension, skitting along the oily membrane like a water bug. At last, after what must have been a full hour of dutiful resentment, betrayal, and reluctance, Draco looked up.
Charlie's expression was something he would never forget. A wound of betrayal so deep it creased the corner of his mouth. His skin was as pale as plaster of Paris, and his freckles shone out like a random spray of Jackson Pollock ink. His eyes were dead, absolutely dead, the gaze of a drowned corpse in the watery ditches of the First World War. His hands were frozen in a rigor mortis around the ceramic curve of his coffee cup.
"Chuck, I didn't mean it," Draco said. "I didn't mean to kill him. I was on your side. I was trying to kill Rookwood. But the blast. The dust. I wasn't – I couldn't fucking aim. I – I didn't mean to kill him." Charlie's expression didn't shift, was as stony as noble, naked David. "I'm sorry. I needed to tell you, one of you. You were the only one who – who might forgive me." Draco hesitated for Charlie's hand, but decided to pick up his coffee instead. "Because we didn't know each other. I'm – I'm sorry. And I don't say that lightly, Chuck."
"Don't say it."
"What?" Draco asked, his grey eyes widening. "Say what? I am sorry."
"What?" Draco asked again.
"Don't call me Chuck."
Draco was taken aback. He didn't seem to have any of his usual comebacks, his litany of witticisms or wisecracks. For once he seemed totally incapable for any kind of communication, truthful or deceptive or anything at all.
"Bill calls me Chuck. Fleur calls me Chuck," Charlie said, standing. "You don't call me Chuck."
Draco stood up too. "I'm sorry. Charlie. Sit down, we'll figure this out."
Charlie shook his head, somewhere between regret and sick humour. "Oh fuck off."
"Chuck. Charlie." Draco shook his head, trying to clear it of some obstruction, some obstacle of communication. "I said I'm fucking sorry." He touched Charlie's cheek, dropped his hand to Charlie's shoulder. "But you hate them. You said it yourself. You're not your family, you're not your brothers. You're better without them." Draco took a defiant stance, a cold stare of acceptance, welcoming Charlie like he wasn't one of those ginger-haired dreamkillers, those muggle-loving vermin that dogged his every step, that drove his father to an early grave.
"I don't," Charlie grunted. "Fuck. How could you."
"You hate them, Charlie," Draco said, almost desperately.
Charlie shook his head, a mirror of Draco's twitch of disbelief. This mess of brotherhood was a hideous pain in Charlie's side, and he knew for all his alcohol and orgasms that it would somehow lead to this, this inevitable choice between going back home or living with nothing at all. There was only one thing he knew in this whole byzantine tangle of affections and affectations. When the chips were down, so they said. "Just, not as much as I hate you."
Charlie rang the doorbell.
It was snowing, a wet heavy snow that was good for snowballs. Charlie was still wearing Draco's parka, the brown one they had bought along the Romanian mainstreet to replace the one forgotten during Charlie's eviction. Charlie drew it tight around his body, snuffling slightly into the warm fur. The half-tears stinging at the corner of his eyes froze in the air, salty beads of glass on his freckled skin. His feet were numb, his fingers stuffed in his pockets in recalcitrant fists. He rang the doorbell again, turning his face away from another arctic bellow off the choppy Atlantic ocean, all filled with the smells of iron and seaweed.
He had come home for Christmas. Or, at least he tried. His train had been delayed for two days in Lyon because of a derailment and ice build-up, and it was December 27th and fucking freezing. He rang the doorbell again.
Bill opened the door. He was wearing blue jeans and a torn black sweater, little holes in the cuffs that had been worried away to allow a thumb to poke through. Charlie recognised it as his own. From inside there was a great smell of cooking chicken and soup, of Christmas-tree pine and sugar cookies.
Bill watched Charlie for a moment. Their glance lingered and then they were hugging. Firm hands, strong arms, a noble construction of freckled limbs. Charlie pressed his face into Bill's shoulder, sucking in all those familiar smells of hard soap and sweet dust, like Bill had just stumbled from an old library.